Forecasting more cold-weather problems for Peyton Manning. Plus, thoughts on Bill O’Brien’s starring role on Hard Knocks, the unsung hero in Chris Johnson’s return to the NFL and RG3’s confident comments
1. I think the Broncos are in a weird spot. If this isn’t the last season of Peyton Manning’s illustrious NFL career, it's probably the second to last. It’s quite clear he throws the football more effectively in warm weather (nowadays even without a glove) than he does in cold. If Manning starts out hot, as he typically does, and the Broncos run away with home-field advantage in the AFC, they’re hosting games in January in Colorado. If you’re John Elway, wouldn’t you rather have Manning indoors in Indianapolis or in a less extreme climate like Baltimore for the AFC title game? Then again, there’s nothing you can do but try to win every game until you clinch home field, because the alternative to Denver in January could very well be Foxborough in January. (And why did Peyton pick Denver anyway, knowing this would be an obstacle? Imagine the ripple effect if he had chosen, say, San Francisco...)
2. I think I loved this bit from Bill O’Brien, who is pretty much perfect for Hard Knocks. Apparently frustrated, he told his assistants he was nixing the music during a team period so he could hear the on-field communication for himself. “I want to know what these f---- know,” he repeated. “... if they don’t know, that’s part of the evaluation and we cut their f------ a----. Let’s see what the f--- they know.”
I get why teams don’t want to do Hard Knocks. Most have a hard enough time plugging leaks and keeping secrets without the world knowing the inner workings of their franchise. But selfishly, as a fan, I’m glad somebody steps up year after year.
3. I think some credit is due Jen Paolucci of Unbreakable, Jay Glazer’s Gym in West Hollywood, for Chris Johnson’s recent signing with the Cardinals. Johnson caught a bullet in the shoulder in a March drive-by shooting in Orlando and went to L.A. for much of his rehab. At this stage of the 29-year-old’s waning career, to go from shot in March to signed in August is truly incredible.
4. I think this is the end of the line for former first-round pick EJ Manuel in Buffalo, and I think he knows it too. “At the end of the day, if I play well, it should take care of itself,” Manuel told the AP's John Wawrow. “Whether it’s here or whether it’s somewhere else, I don’t know.” Based on what we saw at Bills camp, Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor are in a two-man race for the starting job, and Manuel is in danger of being cut just two years after the previous regime drafted him 16th overall. Among the first-rounders picked after Manuel in '03: Eric Reid, Kyle Long, DeAndre Hopkins and Travis Frederick. Ouch.
5. I think Andy Dalton is the worst quarterback who could reasonably win Super Bowl 50. That’s as long as he has a whole mess of support—a kind of QB Mendoza Line, if you will. Bill Simmons wrote a ranking of QBs and their fictional film counterparts in winter 2012 that’s fun to revisit now (Robert Griffin III was ninth on his list). Simmons had then-Texans starter Matt Schaub at 13. Wrote Simmons: “I’m making this the cutoff line for quarterbacks who aren’t good enough to win the Super Bowl unless they have a lot of help. Matt Schaub, you need a lot of help.” That’s exactly how I feel about Dalton. One big difference between the two: Schaub didn’t get his first and only playoff shot until that season, 2012, when he was 31. Dalton, who turns 28 in October, has had tries in each of his first four seasons and lost all four times, with one touchdown and six interceptions (plus two lost fumbles) in those games.
6. I think it’s reasonable for Eli Manning to expect his contract to top that of the NFL’s current highest-paid player, Aaron Rodgers (at $22 million average annual salary). Would I take Manning over Rodgers if I were starting a franchise? Heck no. But the cap is ever-expanding, and Rodgers signed his deal in 2013 when the cap was set at $123 million. That number could hit $150 million in 2016. If anything, Rodgers is very underpaid.
7. I think this is an interesting juxtaposition:
Robert Griffin III, April: “Talk small and play big.”
Robert Griffin III, August: “I don’t feel like I have to come out here and show anybody anything or why I’m better than this guy or better than that guy. It’s more about going out and affirming that for me, I go out and I play, I know I’m the best quarterback on this team. I feel like I’m the best quarterback in the league and I have to go out and show that,” Griffin said, via the Washington Post. “Any athlete at any level, if they concede to someone else, they’re not a top competitor, they’re not trying to be the best that they can be. There’s guys in this league that have done way more than me. But, I still view myself as the best because that’s what I work toward every single day.”
• MAKE OR BREAK FOR RG3—AGAIN: Emily Kaplan's dispatch from Washington’s training camp includes notes on Junior Galette's arrival, an unfortunate injury and how Jay Gruden is doing everything he can to help his quarterback thrive..
8. I think there’s much to be said about the annoying practice of aggregators taking quotes out of context and misrepresenting the words of athletes and public figures at large (but that’s already been addressed by Jenny Vrentas). Here’s what really irks me about this quote if I’m a Washington fan: Griffin has no incentive to get all introspective about his competitive mindset with reporters. That’s for successful quarterbacks, not guys with 20 TDs and 18 INTs over the last two seasons. If I were in Robert’s corner, I’d tell him to take his own advice from the spring.
9. I think I had the perfect meal back home in Maryland before returning to the Midwest and kicking off the preseason in earnest with a visit to Kansas City: two dozen Maryland blue crabs, each the size of my fist, steamed to a bright red and served with melted butter, vinegar and Old Bay. I was delighted to read this spring that the population of female crabs able to reproduce jumped 47%. That’s good, but that population is still dangerously low, according to biologists. If you’re reading this, bay crabbers, please stop catching and selling the women.
10. I think you should stick to politics, Marco Rubio.